Written by Gabriel Knott-Fayle (@GabeKnottFayle).
Five of us arrived at Loughborough University this year to begin our PhD research as part of the ‘Beyond the Binary: The critical Issue of Gender and Sport in a Changing World’ project. At the beginning of November a few of us travelled up to Glasgow to attend our first conference as a team. Before we talk about our journey up to Scotland, we would like to briefly introduce the ‘Beyond the Binary’ project and team to the Loughborough University community that has welcomed us in the last few weeks.
The ‘Beyond the Binary’ projects will explore, in multiple ways, the current and changing landscape of sports participation for transgender adults and children with the aim of promoting inclusive participation. Spread between the School of Social Sciences, National Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine, School of Sport Exercise & Health Sciences and School of Arts, English & Drama the five of us come from different backgrounds to offer various insights into the complex and timely issue of sex and gender in sports. The team is comprised of Behzad, Gabe, Hannah, Lauren and Nadyne – feel free to come speak to us and find out what we’re doing!
It was in pursuit of this research that we found ourselves convened in chilly Glaswegian air, on a bright morning, for the Leap Sports and Outsport Conference, ‘Changing LGBTI+ Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity’. The day ensued with panel discussions, coffee, mingling, and some excellent talks – the perfect place to start getting our team out there. Although the event was organised by Scottish organisations, which meant there was a big presence of Scottish athletes, clubs and the Scottish Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing (Joe Fitzpatrick MSP) there was an international feel to the event with representation from German Sport University Cologne, the Italian based AICS and Bulgarian LGBTIQ organisation Bilitis, to name a few.
There was a morning panel discussion with Adam Harrison (Glasgow Alphas), Stefan Hogan (retired para swimmer), Al Hopkins (Edinburgh Frontrunners), Natalie Washington (Rushmoor Community FC) and Connie McCallen (powerlifter) whose personal experiences made clear the transformative and beneficial power of sports participation for LGBTIQ people, as well as the potential harm caused by non-inclusive organisations. The day continued with talks on sex regulation and intersex inclusion, policy and practice for trans participation, tackling discrimination in sport, the role of the media in sport and the possibility of organising sport beyond the binary gender categories – all of which gave us plenty to think about.
Our trip to Glasgow made it clear that there is a global community engaged with the issue of LGBTIQ participation in sport which will enliven, and be enriched by, our work. As Doctoral Researchers at the beginning of our research journeys it is exciting to see and hear about the importance and impact that our work will have on such a large community. At the same time, the nascency of many the issues in the field is apparent which is where our projects fit in. We’re looking forward to attending more conferences soon with our own research and putting the Beyond the Binary team, and Loughborough, at the forefront of tackling issues surrounding gender diversity in sports.